Local attractions on Naxos and the Small Cyclades
Updated: May 3
As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Naxos and the Small Cyclades, here's our pick of local visitor attractions.
No Greek island would be complete without an impressive ruin or temple to gawp at – and Naxos is no exception. From the magnificent Portara standing tall at the entrance to Naxos Town – the emblem of Naxos and the region's most visited site – to Naxos' very own mini Acropolis, the Temple of Demeter, the islands are full of intriguing places to wander around.
The island has its fair share of fascinating museums giving visitors an insight into some of the area's cultural heritage: there's the Eggares olive press museum, a citron distillery which offers free tastings and a collection of wonderful museums in central Naxos.
Google map: shows the location and details of all the places to stay, local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities in our Green Traveller's Guide to Naxos & the Small Cyclades:
Green = Places to stay Blue = Local food & drink Yellow = Attractions Purple = Activities
Places of interest in Naxos & the Small Cyclades
Arriving by boat, the magnifient Portara – the monumental marble doorway of an unfinished Temple of Apollo – is likely to be your first taste of the ancient glories of Naxos; it's little surprise that it has become the emblem of Naxos and is the most visited landmark on the island. Built on the islet of Palatia and connected to Naxos Town by a walkway, contruction began in the 6th century BC by tyrant Lygdamis, but didn't get much further than the entranceway and foundations, all of which can still be seen today. It's a special place to visit at any time of day, but sunsets are particularly spectacular – possibly one of the loveliest settings in Greece – though you'll have to vie for a photo spot with the throngs of other visitors who climb up to the temple as dusk descends.
Demeter Temple, Naxos
The setting couldn't be more apt for a temple dedicated to the god of harvest and agriculture – off the beaten path, the beautiful ruins, which date from the 6th century BC, lie amongst miles and miles of open farmland. It's a pretty five-minute walk up oleander-lined paths to this mini Acropolis, and there's a little museum about the history of the site (closed Monday, check opening times). Until fairly recently there was little to see here: over the millennia, the building's columns and stones had been reused in local buildings, including a church on site, but a team of archaeologists restored the temple to its ancient former glory ten years ago. Everything you see is original, however; some of the blocks of marble look as pristine as the day they were hewn from the nearby quarries.
Archaeological Museum, Naxos
Housed in a Venetian mansion at the very top of Naxos Old Town, this is a wonderful small collection of Cycladic art and history dating back to 5300BC gathered from Naxos and the surrounding islands of Keros, Donousa and Koufonisia. The finds, most of which have been recovered from tombs across the region, include Early Cycladic marble figurines, Classical pottery and terracotta items, Prehistoric tools and weapons and objects made from ivory, gold and semi-precious stones. The museum opens out onto a wonderful enclosed courtyard featuring a Roman mosaic at its centre, with spectacular views across Naxos from the castle walls. Please note: open Tuesdays and Saturdays only.
Bazeos Tower, Naxos
The imposing stone tower, perfectly square and fronted by a high walled courtyard, is a fine example of the sort of Venetian buildings that were constructed across Naxos in the early 17th century. Originally built as a monastery, it was bought by the current Italian family (Baseggio) in the 19th century and now hosts art and cultural events and exhibitions throughout the year. Inside, it's an intriuging place to explore, its higgledy-piggledy layout and low ceiling'd rooms connected by narrow staircases and stone archways. Climb to the top for some wonderful views from the openair courtyard. Music concerts are held in the courtyard throughout July and August. Sangri and Chalki are close by.
Church of St Georgios Diassoritis, Chalki, Naxos
In its heyday in the 11th century, this church would have been one of the most important religious centres in the region. It's a ten-minute walk from the historic centre of Chalki (it's not well signposted so you may find yourself asking for directions several times along the way) but it's definitely worth the trip. Hidden amongst a sea of gnarly ancient olive groves, the Byzantine church is a rare example of 'cross-in-square' type of church architecture. Inside, the walls are decorated from top to bottom in a stunning series of frescoes depicting the Annunciation, the Nativity and the Ascension – not all are clearly visible in the semi-darkness, but this only adds to the charm. A enthusiastic group of volunteers is on hand with information leaflets.
Eggares Olive Press Museum, Naxos
The importance of the humble olive tree in Greek culture cannot be overstated. In Naxos alone there are 90 surviving olive presses, though none are in operation today. One example is found in the tiny village of Eggares, now a little museum giving a fascinating insight into the life and history of the Lianos family who pressed olives here between 1840-1967. Bubbly Nikoleta will show you round the mini museum (just two innterconnecting rooms) and demonstrate how the olives were once pressed, separated, bottled and stored, all the machinery still in situ; she clearly loves showing off her family's heritage and brings the whole experience to life. The family continues to produce olive oil from the original trees surrounding the museum (some are 120 years old) and you can stock up on products, from soap and smellies to oils, tapanades and beautiful olivewood kitchenware, in the little shop. Don't leave without a tasting or two.
Manolis Lybertas’s Pottery Workshop
Manolis is the fourth generations of potters here at this pottery studio and workshop in the heart of Naxos. Enter a room full to bursting with colourful ceramic wares: pots and jugs, mugs and statues, beads and bowls; it's a wonderful place to wander around. Watch Manolis in action – it's a fascinating, mesmerising experience watching a potter at work, making it look effortless as he chats to the crowds gathered around him. Don't leave without picking up your own momento from the shop.
Vallindras Citrus Distillery, Chalki, Naxos
Five generations later, the Vallindras family are still producing 'Kitron', a liqueur made from the fruit and leaves of the citron tree (a larger version of the lemon tree) which is unique to Naxos. The distillery is still in operation but part of the building is now a museum, giving visitors an insight into how the liqueur is produced. You can join a tour (all staff are family members) and learn about the processes involved, and end with a tasting or two of the secret family recipe, which has been distilled in the same way since its creation in 1896.
Museums of Folklore, Archaeology and Natural History, Apiranthos, Naxos
The village of Apiranthos, in the very centre of Naxos, has an impressive number of museums to its name. The wonderful Folklore Museum, located in a traditional house in the old market quarter, is a treasure trove of artefacts documenting the historical past of Naxos, giving visitors a fascinating insight into the local traditions of weaving, bee keeping and cheese making. The Archaeological Museum, well worth a visit, is stuffed full of Cycladic statues and other treasures dating from the Neolithc period. The compact Natural History Museum has a fascinating collection of shells, dolphin skeletons, whale bones and some intriguing, if rather gruesome, specimens floating in glass jars.
For information on where to stay nearby, places to find local food and drink and low impact activities, see our Green Traveller's Guide to Naxos and the Small Cyclades